When a dishevelled loner, Dwight (Macon Blair), hears about the release of his parents’ killer from prison he embarks upon an ill-advised quest across the state for closure and ultimately vengeance. Along the way he’ll have to face the various manifestations of his past, be they friends, family and grudges before he can finally face the retribution he so desperately seeks. But is Dwight prepared for the repercussions of such a personal pursuit?
If I were to tell you that indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin has more than a passing resemblance to that Pixar darling ‘Wall-E’ you’d probably tell me to hush my cracker mouth. If that happened I’d probably ignore you and continue on with my ramble, glossing over your racist slight. You see, both films centre on a scruffy, quiet individual who rifles around in rubbish against a backdrop of collapse and ruin; admittedly one may be about an adorable robot in an apocalyptic future and the other about a man in self-exile on a bloody trail of revenge for past misdeeds and I will concede that therein the differences emerge, but the lack of dialogue remains and is one of Blue Ruin’s strongest features.
So much of Blue Ruin passes by without so much as a word, and unlike the comparison made around 120 words ago this is used to show just how dehumanised Dwight is; the way he trundles through board-walks, cities, houses, hospitals, even company is in such a frail and alien way that he looks like he fell off the back of an intergalactic turnip truck. Instead of focussing on a script, Blue Ruin gives us time to know Dwight through action and most importantly, ambience. That said when the camera isn’t traipsing with Dwight as he sheepishly makes good on his revenge, highlighting the wreck and ruin that precedes and follows him, the events themselves draw focus on the preposterousness of revenge itself.
It’s made abundantly clear time and again that Dwight isn’t necessarily good at anything, and usually this kind of ‘every-man’ archetype would somehow find the inner strength or verisimilitude to John-McClane his way out of things. In an increasingly-grimy tank top if he so wished. But a-ha, Blue Ruin pulls the wool from off your eyes and dangles the raw meat of the situation in your face like an overenthusiastic butcher. Dwight may be an every-man, but that’s exactly why he can’t beat anyone up in a fair fight, he can’t shoot, he can’t take a hit, he can’t- look, the point I’m trying to make is that the only thing he has in any abundant supply is cowardice, like any run-of-the-mill, average-Joe-Whatsername.
If the past two paragraphs haven’t been evidence enough, this is Blair’s show and he owns his role. But likewise, director Jeremy Saulnier shows he has incredible form in subtle cinemacraft, and if ‘cinemacraft’ isn’t a word, then it damn well is now. Many of the story beats in Blue Ruin are mere hints of a larger picture that we never see, and whilst some items gradually gain definition we are mostly spectators to events that feel they will resonate within the presented world for years to come, transforming us into the helpless every-people we see struggle for vengeance before us. Now THAT’S some sly cinemacraft, there.
All of the above said, however, Blue Ruin doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Some people may stand to and announce, “Hey, you leave the wheel alone! It’s a damn fine product and doesn’t need no fidgey-widginesss! If anything, we need more wheels!” Likewise others may counter such a position with “Hey! Hey! Hey there! Hey! What’s with all these antiquated wheel designs? Where’s the innovation at? Huh? HUH?!” Truly, a timeless argument.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent thriller. It’s also been a while since I’ve seen a smart use of cinema to portray an overused trope. Actually, it’s been a while since somebody thought to so brazenly use atmosphere to cinema me up my face. You take these elements and throw them together in an attempt to make a delicious loaf of bread and lo and behold your dough turned into something tasty. A tasty revolution? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a damn fine sandwiches with it. Bread analogies.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb, Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, David W. Thompson, Stacy Rock, Sidney Anderson, Bonnie Johnson, Brent Werzner, Ydaiber Orozco, Erica Genereux Smith, Daniel L. Kelly
Running Time:92 minutes
Release Date: 2nd May 2014